Things you wish you knew before breeding rabbits

MadamContrary

Crowing
8 Years
Mar 22, 2013
1,120
2,041
341
Very South Texas
I just scored a free 7 cage breeder set up for rabbits and I have had the idea of breeding on the back burner for the past year because I've been very focused on breeding quail. So now that housing is covered, and I have the feed on hand already from other uses, I see no reason to wait on learning the proper husbandry techniques. Hit me with your wisdom! 😁
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
8,150
16,995
706
USA
Write down when you bred that doe.
Mark on your calendar 28 days later to give her a nestbox (or maybe a day or two earlier.)
After that, just feed and water her but do not pester her. Don't pull out the nestbox 20 times a day to look, don't stand there staring all day, etc. It's probably fine to pull the nestbox out and look in it once or twice a day when you are feeding & watering her.
The bunnies will probably be in a pile of fluffy fur on about day 31.

But if you forget to put in the nestbox, there WILL be dead bunnies on the wire floor of the cage.

Make sure the doe and growing bunnies have enough food. If you use the J-style feeders, and rain gets in, the feed can dry into a hard lump and then they go hungry until you clean it out.

Do you intend to eat some of the rabbits? Even if you mostly want to produce show rabbits or pet rabbits, eating is a good solution for ones that are not right for those purposes (wrong color for show, wrong temperament for pet, etc.)
 

MadamContrary

Crowing
8 Years
Mar 22, 2013
1,120
2,041
341
Very South Texas
Write down when you bred that doe.
Mark on your calendar 28 days later to give her a nestbox (or maybe a day or two earlier.)
After that, just feed and water her but do not pester her. Don't pull out the nestbox 20 times a day to look, don't stand there staring all day, etc. It's probably fine to pull the nestbox out and look in it once or twice a day when you are feeding & watering her.
The bunnies will probably be in a pile of fluffy fur on about day 31.

But if you forget to put in the nestbox, there WILL be dead bunnies on the wire floor of the cage.

Make sure the doe and growing bunnies have enough food. If you use the J-style feeders, and rain gets in, the feed can dry into a hard lump and then they go hungry until you clean it out.

Do you intend to eat some of the rabbits? Even if you mostly want to produce show rabbits or pet rabbits, eating is a good solution for ones that are not right for those purposes (wrong color for show, wrong temperament for pet, etc.)
Yes, predominantly for meat and fertilizer. Kids might want to get into showing them at some point though.
 

EverythingDucks

🙄🤚 𝙻𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎 𝙳𝚞𝚌𝚔
Premium Feather Member
May 7, 2020
7,576
65,081
1,086
Bermuda Triangle
Have you picked out a breed (or multiple)?

I mostly know about pet rabbits, but here's som basic care.

Diet:

Adult rabbits should have unlimited access to fresh Timothy hay at all times. Hay should make up 80% of their diet, and it is crucial for digestion and helps to keep their ever growing teeth down. Lots of people like the brand Oxbow, but if you're going to have a large rabbitry I recommend buying in bulk from a ocal farm, or ordering it in bulk.

For pet rabbits, the recommend about of pellets is ¼ cup a day, less for rabbits weighing under 4 pounds but no more for larger rabbits.
If these will be meat rabbits you may want to feed unlimited pellets though. If you plan on showing rabbits or keeping any as pets they will be much healthier with limited pellets.

Most pet rabbits get about a handle of fresh spring mix veggies for breakfast and dinner. This is when the pellets are limited.
Avoid iceberg lettuce.
You can feed fresh greens and herbs as a treat if you choose not to feed them as part of ther meals. Always introduce new food in small amount, and very slowly to avoid upset stomachs.

Pregnant or mama does, as well as babies should have unlimited Alfalfa hay and pellets. Alfalfa is higher in protein and calcium, which babies need to grow strong and healthy, and moms will need to stay healthy during and after birth. But Alfalfa should not be give to adult rabbits (who aren't mama does), except for as a special treat in small quantities.

Rabbits under the age of 8 weeks should not have any greens or treats. Just milk, pellets, and hay. Some say it's even best to wait until after 6 months to feed greens, but in most cases young rabbits (over 8 weeks) do fine when the greens and treats are very slowly introduced in small portions.

Water:
Some adult rabbits will drink up to as much as a large dog, and provide plenty of fresh water is very important. Especially in the Texas heat.
Most people simply use water bottles, but I recommend avoiding those.
The small nozzles don't allow enough water through, so dehydration is a big risk. Those nozzles are also a pain to clean, and are just about impossible to keep sanitized. Not to mention how unnatural they are, especially considering the angle they have to drink from.

Water bowls work much better. You can even get some with water jugs attached to refill them automatically. The problem that most people have with this is that the rabbits try to tip them over, and get hay and things in their water.
There's an easy solution for that though. You can get bowls that attach to the wire of the cage, and dog food stands work just as well.
Though rabbits would still be able to get stuff in the bowls (though not nearly as easily), by the time that they get dirty the probably just need fresh water anyways.

Enrichment:
Rabbits are very smart animals, and to keep them healthy and happy it's important to have a few toys to keep their brain stimulated. Not only do toys help with that, but they also prevent the rabbit from getting overgrown teeth, which is very painful. Rabbits that don't have things to chew often destroy anything they can get their teeth on.
Toys don't have to be expensive, as its easy to make DIY toys out of things such as cardboard, paper bags, and paper towel tubes. Hay and pellets can be stuffed in them too.
Pinecones make great toys as well, just be sure to put them in boiling water first to be sure there aren't any insects on that that could harm your rabbits.

Hides:
Since rabbits are prey animals, the need spaces the can hide in to feel safe and protected. Cardboard boxes work great for this. Just cut a hole (or two, since rabbits like multiple entrances) in a box with as little tape and ink as you can get. If you have the space (though if they're strictly for meat this may not matter) cat tunnels are great hides and offers enrichment too.

Cages:
Most cages have wire bottoms. Although this is controversial, my opinion is that wire bottoms should be avoided.
The reason for the wire is so that poop can fall to were it can be easily cleaned. I personally think its easier to litter train rabbits, especially considering the issues with wire.
Rabbits do not have paw pads like cats and dogs, they only have thin fur and delicate skin. The wire is painful and uncomfortable to lay on all the time, and can even cause bumble foot.
Be sure to at least have an area where the rabbits can get off the wire if it is not completely covered.

(Assuming these are outdoor rabbits)
You'll also want to keep the cages in the shade or inside a larger structure such as a barn or shed to keep them out of the heat. Thouhh rabbutscan tolerate the cold, they can easily die of heat stroke.
Another thing to keep in mind is that rabbits often die of a heart attack. Predators that may try to get to them could make them go into shock, even if they don't attack.
And just like a chicken coop, you'll want to predator proof the cages so nothing can get in (or out).

I'm not sure what you're cages look like or how you can set everything up, but with rabbits, its always better to go bigger. If possible, I highly recommend adding a (predator proof) run so the rabbits can exercise like they're meant to. They'll be a lot happier and healthier, ad may be easier to handle when they don't have s much pent-up energy.

A few other things to know:

If you chose to use litter boxes, be sure to get cat sized boxes so that they can turn all the way around. Pelleted pine litter works great. Just avoid cat litter since it have clay, which can be fatal is ingested. Put the box in th corner of the cage, and fill it up with hay. Put any poop in there, and clean the pee, and they should catch on quickly.

You'll also need to groom them some. Rabbits molt during spring and fall, and during this time they often end up swallowing a lot of hair while grooming. Simply using a comb (Rabbit Hair Buster or curry comb) will help a lot.
Rabbits can't regurgitate, so when they ingest too much hair it can bloc everything up which can cause them to go in GI stasis and die.
They'll also need nails trimmed every month or so. Small dog clippers work great for this.

If you're keeping them outside, you should know about RDHV2. A deadly and highly contagious disease among both wild and domestic rabbits.
The House Rabbit Society has some great info on this.

Hopefully this will help you, and good luck!
Also, sorry for the super long reply, lol.
 
I just scored a free 7 cage breeder set up for rabbits and I have had the idea of breeding on the back burner for the past year because I've been very focused on breeding quail. So now that housing is covered, and I have the feed on hand already from other uses, I see no reason to wait on learning the proper husbandry techniques. Hit me with your wisdom! 😁
A) Make sure the doe is at least 6 months of age before breeding
B) Make sure the buck is at least 4 months of age before breeding
C) ALWYAS take the doe to the buck, NEVER the buck to the doe
D) You must know what to look for when you put them together
E) Only leave them in there with each other for about 30-60 minute sessions for 3 days in a row (Write down the days when you put them together, and mark 28 days later from the 1st day. That is typically when she will kindle, but some don not kindle until day 29-31)
F) DO NOT treat the doe as if she is pregnant until she is 12 days along, then be carful with handling her and up her feed

Please PM @MadamContrary if you would like more in detailed info. Or what to do past day 12 in pregnancy.
 

MadamContrary

Crowing
8 Years
Mar 22, 2013
1,120
2,041
341
Very South Texas
Have you picked out a breed (or multiple)?

I mostly know about pet rabbits, but here's som basic care.

Diet:

Adult rabbits should have unlimited access to fresh Timothy hay at all times. Hay should make up 80% of their diet, and it is crucial for digestion and helps to keep their ever growing teeth down. Lots of people like the brand Oxbow, but if you're going to have a large rabbitry I recommend buying in bulk from a ocal farm, or ordering it in bulk.

For pet rabbits, the recommend about of pellets is ¼ cup a day, less for rabbits weighing under 4 pounds but no more for larger rabbits.
If these will be meat rabbits you may want to feed unlimited pellets though. If you plan on showing rabbits or keeping any as pets they will be much healthier with limited pellets.

Most pet rabbits get about a handle of fresh spring mix veggies for breakfast and dinner. This is when the pellets are limited.
Avoid iceberg lettuce.
You can feed fresh greens and herbs as a treat if you choose not to feed them as part of ther meals. Always introduce new food in small amount, and very slowly to avoid upset stomachs.

Pregnant or mama does, as well as babies should have unlimited Alfalfa hay and pellets. Alfalfa is higher in protein and calcium, which babies need to grow strong and healthy, and moms will need to stay healthy during and after birth. But Alfalfa should not be give to adult rabbits (who aren't mama does), except for as a special treat in small quantities.

Rabbits under the age of 8 weeks should not have any greens or treats. Just milk, pellets, and hay. Some say it's even best to wait until after 6 months to feed greens, but in most cases young rabbits (over 8 weeks) do fine when the greens and treats are very slowly introduced in small portions.

Water:
Some adult rabbits will drink up to as much as a large dog, and provide plenty of fresh water is very important. Especially in the Texas heat.
Most people simply use water bottles, but I recommend avoiding those.
The small nozzles don't allow enough water through, so dehydration is a big risk. Those nozzles are also a pain to clean, and are just about impossible to keep sanitized. Not to mention how unnatural they are, especially considering the angle they have to drink from.

Water bowls work much better. You can even get some with water jugs attached to refill them automatically. The problem that most people have with this is that the rabbits try to tip them over, and get hay and things in their water.
There's an easy solution for that though. You can get bowls that attach to the wire of the cage, and dog food stands work just as well.
Though rabbits would still be able to get stuff in the bowls (though not nearly as easily), by the time that they get dirty the probably just need fresh water anyways.

Enrichment:
Rabbits are very smart animals, and to keep them healthy and happy it's important to have a few toys to keep their brain stimulated. Not only do toys help with that, but they also prevent the rabbit from getting overgrown teeth, which is very painful. Rabbits that don't have things to chew often destroy anything they can get their teeth on.
Toys don't have to be expensive, as its easy to make DIY toys out of things such as cardboard, paper bags, and paper towel tubes. Hay and pellets can be stuffed in them too.
Pinecones make great toys as well, just be sure to put them in boiling water first to be sure there aren't any insects on that that could harm your rabbits.

Hides:
Since rabbits are prey animals, the need spaces the can hide in to feel safe and protected. Cardboard boxes work great for this. Just cut a hole (or two, since rabbits like multiple entrances) in a box with as little tape and ink as you can get. If you have the space (though if they're strictly for meat this may not matter) cat tunnels are great hides and offers enrichment too.

Cages:
Most cages have wire bottoms. Although this is controversial, my opinion is that wire bottoms should be avoided.
The reason for the wire is so that poop can fall to were it can be easily cleaned. I personally think its easier to litter train rabbits, especially considering the issues with wire.
Rabbits do not have paw pads like cats and dogs, they only have thin fur and delicate skin. The wire is painful and uncomfortable to lay on all the time, and can even cause bumble foot.
Be sure to at least have an area where the rabbits can get off the wire if it is not completely covered.

(Assuming these are outdoor rabbits)
You'll also want to keep the cages in the shade or inside a larger structure such as a barn or shed to keep them out of the heat. Thouhh rabbutscan tolerate the cold, they can easily die of heat stroke.
Another thing to keep in mind is that rabbits often die of a heart attack. Predators that may try to get to them could make them go into shock, even if they don't attack.
And just like a chicken coop, you'll want to predator proof the cages so nothing can get in (or out).

I'm not sure what you're cages look like or how you can set everything up, but with rabbits, its always better to go bigger. If possible, I highly recommend adding a (predator proof) run so the rabbits can exercise like they're meant to. They'll be a lot happier and healthier, ad may be easier to handle when they don't have s much pent-up energy.

A few other things to know:

If you chose to use litter boxes, be sure to get cat sized boxes so that they can turn all the way around. Pelleted pine litter works great. Just avoid cat litter since it have clay, which can be fatal is ingested. Put the box in th corner of the cage, and fill it up with hay. Put any poop in there, and clean the pee, and they should catch on quickly.

You'll also need to groom them some. Rabbits molt during spring and fall, and during this time they often end up swallowing a lot of hair while grooming. Simply using a comb (Rabbit Hair Buster or curry comb) will help a lot.
Rabbits can't regurgitate, so when they ingest too much hair it can bloc everything up which can cause them to go in GI stasis and die.
They'll also need nails trimmed every month or so. Small dog clippers work great for this.

If you're keeping them outside, you should know about RDHV2. A deadly and highly contagious disease among both wild and domestic rabbits.
The House Rabbit Society has some great info on this.

Hopefully this will help you, and good luck!
Also, sorry for the super long reply, lol.
Not too long at all! Very valuable information. Can you litter train intact rabbits? I've read that they might scent mark a lot if not fixed. The set up I got is wire bottoms, but I plan to only use them for night time safety. I'll cover the bottoms and back so they have full coverage from the elements and predators. I'll also be adding a roof. I have a ton of little rabbit triangles, like little tractors, so I can put them out on the grass until we build a run. I am of the mindset of kindness when raising food and feel like a happy life is important even if it's a short one.
 

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